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Empowering deaf and mute people to enhance their participation in community governance and decision-making

a woman wearing a black head covering

Aisha in a park close to her house

Aisha in a park close to her house

Newborn infants are able to respond to the sound by startling and blinking their eyes. As they grow, they recognize their parents’ voices and enjoy their own cooing and gurgling sounds. Listening leads to language development. Later on, the children learn to attach meanings to sound. However, children born with hearing impairment are unable to learn for they have never heard the sound to which they can attach meanings. They often have difficulties communicating.

Aisha is a 26-year-old mother with one child. She lives in Taiz governorate, in the southwestern part of Yemen. When she was five years old, she got meningitis which caused her to be deaf and hearing impaired. She studied in a public school where she couldn’t understand anything due to the lack of teaching methods for deaf children.

The social life of deaf and hearing-impaired children is full of challenges and difficulties. Many of them suffer from bullying in their own environment. Deaf children are often exposed to significant bullying problems, making them drop out and leading to their psychological distress. “When I was a child, others used to mock me a lot, which negatively affected my confidence and self-esteem,” Aisha says. Therefore, parents would avoid social interaction with their children as they might be faced with embarrassing or dangerous situations. Parents would resort to isolating them from the outside environment.

Aisha left her village, where there is no special education for the deaf, and moved to Taiz city to continue her education in a special school. Later on, she enrolled in Accounting and Finance at college and became an accountant. “I had a goal to continue my education despite all the difficulties and I now have a Bachelor’s degree,” says Aisha happily.

Aisha had a chance to work at a big company where she met her husband – Ahmed. Ahmed is a 30-year-old sign language interpreter. “My husband supports me in many ways,” she states, “he is the ear that I hear with and the tongue I speak with.”

a man and woman posing for a picture
Aisha with her husband who supports her in her learning

According to the 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), the armed conflict in Yemen has killed and injured tens of thousands of civilians and caused immense suffering for the Yemeni people. During the conflict, bombs dropped close to Aisha’s house, putting her, her husband and their 5-year-old son in danger. “The battles were close to our house. Every night we were feeling that the bombs would fall on us. The conflict has taken many of our loved ones and our neighbors,” she says in a sad tone, “we lived as prisoners who are waiting for their death sentence.”

In times of conflict like in Yemen, deafness means mortal danger. People like Aisha cannot hear the sound of bombs. “The conflict has increased our isolation and the services have stopped. In fact, our ambitions have stopped and our future became unknown,” Aisha adds.

After the spread of COVID-19, many people have lost their income. Aisha and her husband lost their jobs. During epidemics, people with disabilities face huge difficulty in accessing information, such as transmission and prevention methods.

Yemeni women have always been under-represented in public decision-making and positions of influence. However, in both urban and rural areas, there have been significant efforts to advance their influence. CARE, with funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, provided a strong platform to promote equal participation of women in community governance.

“My life was restricted before the intervention of CARE,” says Aisha. “The program encouraged and motivated me and the other deaf, who joined the program, to develop ourselves.”

By the end of the project, Aisha became the first deaf trainer in governance and community accountability. “Thanks to CARE, I train the deaf and hearing-impaired community to enhance their participation in community governance and decision-making. I wish to double the efforts in developing and building the capacities of the deaf people to become active members of society,” Aisha concludes.

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